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  • Chad Kanyer

Cry Like a Man

Updated: Mar 8

[link to podcast episode]

In our broken day and age, there is an erroneous assumption that if/when a man shows his emotion via tears, that he is a weak man, an over-sensitive man, or even a homosexual man.


This is absurd, and my story proves it.


To every young guy stuffing their emotions in order to be perceived as macho by other equally-confused guys .... please do not listen to our culture. It's jacked (and not the good kind).


Stuffing our emotions doesn't solve them -- it allows them to fester beneath the surface.


They then develop into alcohol addictions, shameful hidden habits, abusive behaviors, etc.


Broken relationships.

Criminal records.

Custody losses.

You name it.

Bad stuff.


We may see those things "too mucho" in our society, but they're not macho, and they all lead to much-needed counseling, where even more painful tears will likely flow.


So....


Save yourself time and get real: crying is healthy.

Yes, I may be biased here. I've always been "a crier."


My family and I used to get a kick out of Jude Law's line in The Holiday; "I'm a weepah!" (3:00 mark). In that moment, I decided to have Jude Law's back in any future IMDB oriented discussion.


Anyway, yes! Guilty -- I am an emotional dude.


+ I get choked up at Disney movies;

+ If someone pauses the day to pay me a deep compliment (one I need), I can get a little teary-eyed;

+ When I see something happen in our society that pains me to my core, I can certainly be overcome with emotion, anger, and helplessness -- a feeling of "that is so WRONG" -- and I cry.


But even when I look past these temporal, emotional spikes in the day-to-day to take stock of the most profound, edifying moments in my life -- I see that many involved tears.


Here are three of these "big" moments for me, the purposes they served, and what they spoke to my soul in the moment. I'm glad I learned and listened.


[1] Grandpa Eddie's Funeral


I was around 10, and while I loved Grandpa Eddie, he was a mild-mannered dude, and we only really saw him on big holidays and stuff.


My father's reverence of him trickled down -- you know how that goes -- and so when my dad approached the podium to honor him in front of hundreds, I lost it.


Something inside me buckled.


I wasn't just crying -- I was like, heave-crying, sobbing like a little girl.


Unexpected sadness.

Unembarrassed outburst.

Insuppressible pain.


These tears for Grandpa Eddie .. they taught me the truth. As my uncle rubbed my neck in compassion in that first row, I felt something say to my soul;


"This means more to you than you thought."


Sometimes, the honesty of our tears trump even the most fortified and numb segments of our exoskeleton.


The tears come in swinging, and all other "be strong" facades fade back into their rightful place: the back pew. That day, my tears completely smashed any notion of numbness down, and rightfully soaked that first row.


[2] My Last High School Football Game


This is much better detailed in one of my first posts, Memories (Birthday Observations).


High School football was a huge deal to me, and not for the superficial reasons you see in the Zac Efron movies, but the deeper ones.


The guys who I played alongside my senior year had been brothers on and off the football field for 10 years by then (we all started around age 8).


They were close buddies -- we had practiced, prepared, won, and lost together.

They were my brothers.


We lost that final game 34-28, and it was a gruesome, hard-fought one. When it finally ended -- the game and our chances to continue playing the game we loved alongside the guys we loved -- we collectively broke down.


When the final whistle blew, I grabbed the guy closest to me (Cam Kashfia, our cornerback, total stud) and we were both overcome with emotion. We grabbed each others facemasks and screamed "I f***ing love you!!" into each other's faces.


Raw emotion. Unashamed brotherhood. Bold love.


If anyone on the other team saw this, they were probably like; "whoa, these guys are weird." But that passion is how we got so far (with, admittedly, less size and speed than a lot of other teams). We cared. We held each other accountable. We loved each other.


For the next two hours, the coaches and team stayed together on the field in some form or fashion, us Seniors even putting ourselves trough one last round of our most grueling conditioning routines.


Why? Because after so many nights, seasons, summers, and years of sweating together, we knew that this would be our last.


Everyone was a mess, but we were just letting the tears flow, relishing the moment, and taking stock of the love we had developed for each other over the years.


Our season was over.


For us Seniors, High School would soon be over.


Something inside of us knew that as we all went off to chase girls, earn degrees, and land jobs, our friendships (in their current, beloved form) were over too.


Those tears were ones of love -- nostalgic love. They whispered;


"This is over. Honor what it has meant to you."



[3] My Daughter in the NICU


The process of birthing any child is stressful, even for dads, but Mila's birth story was insane.


My wife had a great idea when she was one-month out (at least on paper) from Mila coming: we would go to Great Wolf Lodge to celebrate being a one-kid family -- showering our son Deacon with love and focus and attention for an entire weekend.


That didn't happen.


After checking in to the hotel, we began the walk to our room, and my wife's water broke. We pulled a u-turn and began hustling back to the car.


Mom was a weird mix of worried and in denial.


Deacon, after having seen the massive indoor waterslide at check-in, was absolutely distraught.


Dad (me) was swinging by the front desk to confirm the refund, and then heartily-engaged in our Jeep's "Sport Mode" (finally a reason to use it) to get us to the hospital.


Fun fact: In speaking to the nurses, we learned that Friday the 13th is a huge "trigger day" for premature babies. Not sure I believe that, but how do you argue with nurses who deliver 10+ babies every shift? Anyway...


Something like 12 hours later, on Saturday the 14th*, Mila was born.

She was beautiful, but she was awfully quiet after she came out.

Turns out she was sick, but in the beginning, we had no idea just how sick she was.


Fast-forward 4-5 hours, mom and dad are back in their hospital room, relaxing, snoozing, and taking turns holding little Mila. She was very still and her breathing very faint, but everyone just assumed that she was resting from labor.


One of the nurses performed her usual rounds of checking on the newborns, and immediately upon unwrapping Mila from her swaddle, looked directly at me and intensely asked;


"What is wrong with this baby?!"


She began slapping Mila's feet to get a reaction. Nothing.

She immediately turned and smacked a red button on the wall. Within 30 seconds, 10 nurses were standing inside our room.

They rushed Mila down the hallway and into a room in which she could be hooked up to a breathing machine.


I followed them down the hallway as best I could, watching this small crowd of swarming, concerned nurses shuffle my newborn princess onto the breathing machine. She was now out of sight, and so sound was everything.


Everything else in the world faded -- sounds, smells, everything. The world stopped for me.


I remember muttering; "God, please. Give me a sign. A cry. Anything. Please!"


And then I heard a sound I'll never forget: "WAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!"


Mila was back with a vengeance. My knees released and I dropped like a sack onto the hospital floor. I began to sob.


Fatherly desperation.

Utter exhaustion.

Bottomless gratitude.


But that wasn't the end of our "babymoon weekend."


As Mila stabilized, she was taken to the NICU, an intensive-care unit for premature babies. Those nurses are angels, by the way.


She slowly but surely improved, but there were some very, very close calls along the two-week journey, and a seemingly never-ending roller-coaster of setbacks, victories, stress, and doubt. It was exhausting.


I carved into my journal each night and did my best to not think about it during the daytime -- to focus on work, Daniella, and Deacon, but deeper emotions were welling up inside of me.


One night, we had a handful of close friends visit us to change things up, get us thinking about other stuff for a few hours, and pray for Mila with us.


When it was my turn to pray, a lot of the emotions I had been stuffing on the matter came slashing out in raw emotion. I remember pleading with God, through tears, in front of 10 other people:


"God, my dream is to dance with my little girl some day. If that's not Your plan, that is okay -- she is Your child, not mine. But if there's any chance I can live that dream, please bring her back to us. Please make her healthy. Please."


These tears taught me a lesson I had thought I already knew, but didn't:


They taught me of our utter reliance on God.


Our notion of control over our world -- our circumstances, incomes, and outcomes -- is such a joke.


In that moment, I realized that Mila, and I, were at the full mercy of God's will. They were tears of utter desperation, and they taught me how to say, with 100% submission;


"This is yours, God."


Mila is almost three years old now and thriving. She now screams more than we want, but yes, I have a soft spot every time she does; after all, her first scream was an answer to my prayer.


I twirl her around the room almost every night during our bedtime songs. She giggles and hums. I thank God for my tear-soaked dream coming true.


In all of it, I thank God for His will -- the one I submitted to at the hospital -- being good, and for using a very scary situation, and my tears, to teach me such a valuable lesson:


To trust Him.

Men! Our tears are not foolish, frail, or feminine expressions to be hidden.


They are raw, authentic, wisdom-soaked teachers.


They are to be welcomed, listened to, and learned from.


So, the next time you're getting emotional and there's a foolish inner voice taunting; "what, are you gonna cry about it?" You can confidently answer; "Hell yes -- like a man."


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